Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Relief, confusion mingle among the homeless at Kuching vaccination drive

Some say it is a weight off their shoulders to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 while others seem confused about the situation.

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Every day, Madzidi Bujang moves from one place to another in Sarawak’s capital city looking for a sheltered spot to spend the night.

His home is in Kampung Pulo, one of the many villages located along the Sarawak River across from the Kuching Waterfront.

But it’s been months since the last time he was back.

Madzidi is one of many living rough on the streets of Sarawak. Some nights, the best he can do is to curl up on a ledge off the five-foot-way of a shoplot in Padungan.

He would like to go home, but family problems make this difficult.

For now, the best he can do is to keep moving from one spot to another, doing what he can to keep safe from Covid-19.

Sarawak has been ramping up its vaccination efforts and has double-jabbed more than 82% of its adult population to date. But reaching homeless people like Madzidi who are constantly on the move presents more of a challenge for authorities in their race to achieve herd immunity.

Madzidi Bujang gives a thumbs up sign after being vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine.

Mobile vaccination units have helped tremendously, and some 72% of homeless people across the state have been vaccinated with a first dose since authorities began rolling out their inoculation programme for the homeless in late July.

Madzidi was one of 14 people to receive a second shot of Sinovac vaccine during an integrated mobile vaccination operation in Kuching on Sunday.

“I’m nervous,” he told MalaysiaNow when met. “But I prefer to be vaccinated because I can’t do anything if I’m not vaccinated.”

This includes working the odd jobs that have so far allowed him to scrape together a little food from day to day.

Now that he has been vaccinated, Madzidi is more optimistic of his chances which before this were bleak, especially with the more contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 making its way throughout the state.

On Sunday, Sarawak recorded 1,772 new cases, the majority – 99.77% – of which were grouped in Category One and Two.

Kuching posted the most cases at 725, followed by Samarahan (242) and Bau (167).

Daily cases fell to 1,538 on Monday.

Voon Chong Choi gathers his belongings together after receiving a dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Othman Drahman who has been homeless for years and was vaccinated alongside Madzidi on Sunday said he too was grateful.

He does his best to follow public health advice by wearing a face mask and not mixing with others in large gatherings. But being homeless leaves him with few options in life and sometimes adhering to SOPs is difficult.

“I’m very eager for this,” he told MalaysiaNow. “Now I feel so much relief.”

Others appeared confused about the nature or need for the vaccine, but waited in line to be jabbed nonetheless.

“I don’t know,” a middle-aged man named Voon Chong Choi told MalaysiaNow when asked how he felt after receiving the vaccine.

But despite the various levels of awareness about the virus and the benefits of vaccination, authorities remain confident that every person inoculated brings the state one step closer to the long-awaited goal of achieving herd immunity.

“Providing vaccines for homeless people presents certain challenges. They can be hard to keep track of, or might have more immediate concerns than getting vaccinated.

“However, we will make sure we work together to ensure that everything is done safely,” Sarawak Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Fatimah Abdullah said at a press conference on Sunday.

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